While some businesses have their peak season over the Christmas and New Year period, other businesses experience a lull or schedule a shutdown. If December and January are usually quiet for your business, you can plan ahead to make the most of your downtime.
At the end of a busy year, it’s important to take some time to relax and recharge when things quieten down for your business. According to SBDC business advisor, Chris O’Hare, this could also be the perfect time to schedule a block of time to work on your business, rather than in it.
“As important as the relaxation time is, spending some high-impact time analysing your business performance is equally important,” says Chris. “If your day-to-day commitments are reduced, it is the perfect opportunity to review your business and make forecasts for the year to come. Don’t just leave it until tomorrow, because tomorrow never comes!”
Here are Chris’ top tips for making the most of your downtime, if December and January are generally quiet months for you.
Review your processes
Chris notes that throughout the year you might already have identified areas of your business you’d like to improve. You can take action on these areas while your business is in a quieter period.
“It’s important to review your existing processes honestly, identify opportunities for improving performance and develop a strategic plan.”
“At a practical level, it might be worth identifying one or two areas within your business that instinctively, you know could be performing better. Then dig beneath the surface to find some evidence of what you can improve.”
Chris knows that getting paid on time to manage cashflow is a top priority in business. “If cash flow has become an issue for your business, it is time you assessed each client’s payment patterns, reviewed your terms and conditions and standardised your debt recovery process for regular ‘late payers’.”
Consider your costs
Every business is different, but almost every business will have seen some costs rise this year. Chris notes that taking the time to examine the impact of rising costs will empower you to make good decisions.
“Grab a cup of coffee or tea, or maybe a glass of something stronger, and look through your most recent Profit and Loss Statement, then compare it to previous periods. Given that we have had a year of high inflation, if you haven’t done so already, it’s time to see the impact inflation has had on your bottom line. It could be time to raise your prices.”
Another example Chris provides is if your business has been impacted by the increased cost of fuel. “If this is the case, you should explore the possibility of developing policies to maximise the efficiency of vehicle use. This is a good business practice and if fuel prices reduce, this will help increase your profitability.” The costs savings of more efficient vehicle use aren’t the only benefit – by making more sustainable choices, you could also reduce your businesses’ environmental footprint.
Set yourself a challenge
You might not be someone who sets New Year’s resolutions – but a lull in your business activities could be the perfect time to set yourself a challenge to find areas to improve for the year ahead.
“It is very rare that a business is operating at maximum efficiency, so set yourself the challenge of finding two or three practical changes that will not negatively impact your service delivery, but will improve your efficiency or reduce your costs.”
“If you are the type of business owner who works 80 hours a week because you are the only one who knows how to do things ‘properly’, this is your chance to make a change. Identify tasks that can be delegated and develop a plan to empower a staff member to step up and take on more responsibility.” This could also help you avoid the very real risk of burnout in the future.
“If you have a staff member that is not performing well, start the performance management process now. If you need a new system to cope with increased sales, start researching now. If someone owes your business money, start taking action now!”
Acknowledge the people who matter
“Building personal relationships will only strengthen your professional relationships, so use the Christmas break as an excuse to get in touch with your suppliers, clients, accountant, lawyer and others.”
“Thank them for their contribution to helping your business over the last 12 months. If you have had a great year, be generous, share the credit. If you have had a challenging year, be gracious to those that have helped you get through. Then, don’t forget to express how excited you are to continue working with them into the future.” It may be worth considering showing your appreciation with a gift at this time of the year – it may even be tax deductable.
To learn more about planning for the year ahead, take a look at our free business plan template or book your place in our How to Write a Business Plan workshop.
If you’re looking for general information about your industry, our SBDC team can provide you with free access to IBIS World industry reports that outline industry trends, market research and statistics to help you make better business decisions. You can request access using the LiveChat feature on our website.
If you’d like to discuss planning, staffing, pricing strategies or an issue facing your business, book an appointment with our free business advisory service.